"I Wish I Got a Degree" Billyjack Buzzard Reflects on His Time at Mined Minds

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By Code Burst, Produced in collaboration with eLearning Inside News, and CKUT 90.3 FM. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
This is the fifth episode in a series covering the story of Mined Minds, a coding bootcamp that set out to retrain out-of-work coal miners for work in the tech industry. First episode: https://soundcloud.com/user-630857765/episode-1-conflicting-coverage Over a year ago, in the early weeks of 2018, a colleague shared with me a story about a coding bootcamp that was looking to train out-of-work coal miners for jobs in the tech industry. Mined Minds was launched in southwestern Pennsylvania by Amanda Laucher, who comes from a family of coal miners, along with her husband, Jonathan Graham. Their organization had received a lot of positive media coverage from outlets like NPR, CNN, and CBS. They, along with other workforce development organizations, had a received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission of $1.5 million, and they had begun training dozens of future coders. Their model seemed really promising. They would train people for free, and then employ them as apprentices for a time with an affiliated for-profit software consultancy. They said they could train just about anyone to do this work, regardless of their previous experience, and even gave some of their learners new computers. I think a lot of people got excited by their story because, if it could work in Appalachia, maybe it could work in other places too. But then, other reports started emerging. Some graduates of the program were reportedly laid off after just a few days of work on the for-profit end. In late 2017, two former learners who had gone through the program, Ty Cook and Tori Frame, launched a class-action lawsuit against Mined Minds, arguing that they had been promised pay to attend the program that they never received. The first three episodes of Code Burst went over everything up to that point. When I began reporting on Mined Minds, many folks I contacted didn’t want to get in touch with me. But throughout this summer, more and more people started reaching out. These follow up episodes are intended to capture the experiences of some of the former learners of Mined Minds. It all started with a great idea: coding work is in high demand. So if someone could train people for this work in underserved communities, that can raise everyone up and bring business back into any region. These episodes are intended to discuss where that vision fell to the wayside, and reality set in. This episode, I got in touch with Billyjack Buzzard. Seven generations of his family have worked as coal miners before him. He got laid off, started working in a tattoo shop, and then took the MIned Minds course offered in Clendenin, West Virginia. He was exactly the type of person Mined Minds was looking to serve, and he served as a highly charismatic spokesperson for the organization while working there. Listen for his account of how everything went down. Send me an email: henry@eLearningInside.com Follow me on Twitter: @henry_kronk

7 episodes